The Kennel Club has launched its Be Puppywise campaign to help people look beyond those cute puppy-dog eyes and avoid being duped by rogue breeders and traders.
Puppy farmers are harder to spot than you think. They know prospective owners want to see home-reared pups with mum present. As puppy buyers are becoming more knowledgeable, so the rogue breeders are becoming more cunning.
Rachel Atkinson, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, bought a Cockapoo, Fynn, in August 2021. Fynn was poorly from the moment she collected him, suffering from parasites and viruses common in puppy-farmed dogs, and nearly dying just three days after coming home. Although Fynn survived, due to extensive care and love from Rachel and multiple vet visits, others in his litter weren’t so lucky.
“I looked on the internet and found a well-written advert with pictures, references that the puppies were home-reared, the puppies’ birth dates and highlighting that purchasers could see the mother. I rang the number and a lady answered. She was a little vague on details and emphasised her son was the breeder. I rang back later to query details about the puppies’ parents, like vaccine certificates and veterinary health tests, and she seemed slightly taken aback that I should ask.
“When I visited the puppies, the house was very clean and the garden was beautifully kept. I should have known – no one with that many dogs can maintain an immaculate garden. A very thin and tired female Cocker Spaniel was wandering around; we were told it was the puppies’ mother. I noticed she did not seem particularly protective of her puppies. I wondered whether she was worn out from over-breeding, or perhaps not even the real mother…
“The lady was reluctant to give me her name. Instead, she continued to reiterate that her son was the breeder. All the puppies were in a travelling crate, as if they had just been brought to the home for viewing. Alarm bells should have been clanging in my ears, but I had fallen in love with a little chocolate male, Fynn. I should have walked away and reported them, but I couldn’t; I was sucked in by puppy eyes… I paid the deposit of £150 to her son’s bank account and agreed I would collect the puppy when he was eight weeks old.
“On collection day, my daughter and I returned to the house, but only my Fynn seemed to be there. There was no sound of other dogs barking or moving around, and no mum dog. I asked about the food the puppy had been fed, so I could keep it the same, but she didn’t know and said her son fed them. I wasn’t altogether happy, but paid the remaining £1,000.
“As my daughter and I put Fynn into our dog crate, we were told, ‘Don’t worry if he is a bit loose because he has just had his vaccines’. Vaccinations had never made any of my other dogs ‘loose’, but I took her word for it. As we drove away, within moments, there was puppy diarrhoea everywhere. We stopped and I cleaned him up and at home I bathed him. Before the end of the day, my little Fynn was extremely poorly, so I took him to my vet.
“Fynn’s faeces was tested. He had a parasite, giardia, chlamydia and rectal streptococcus, likely from the mother. The vet wanted the breeder’s details to inform them of the diagnosis, so they could let the other owners know, and he asked to have their ‘facilities’ inspected. It was obvious to me and my vet that these poor puppies had been bred in a warehouse and sold from a neutral location, hiding the reality.
“I was looking after Fynn alone, and it was heart-breaking to stand outside the vet’s and see them peel back the blanket Fynn was wrapped in and hear them say Fynn could die, just three days after bringing him home. The cost was financial, but also costly in time, emotion and worry.
“While Fynn is now doing well and has no lasting effects from his horrendous start in life, it took many months of vet visits and medication. My vet did have more puppies come to him, which were obviously from the same litter, because they had exactly the same problems, but sadly they didn’t make it.
“I felt dreadful when Fynn became ill. I felt stupid. I should have known better. I have owned dogs for over 20 years, and I ask myself how I become ‘sucked in’ even though I had a gut feeling right from the beginning that something didn’t quite ‘add up’.”
Rachel’s story with Fynn illustrates how easily rogue traders can lure in unsuspecting puppy buyers and use clever guises to hide a puppy’s true background simply to make a profit, without any concern for their health or welfare.
“While there is nothing wrong with seeing an advert for a puppy online, you should always then be looking to see the puppy’s home environment and the puppy with its mum,” said Mark Beazley, chief executive of the Kennel Club, which is urging the public to Be Puppywise. “Be cautious of adverts using words that try to lure you in with promises of ‘rare’ dogs or a quick sale, or cute photos on social media.
“For anyone thinking about getting a dog, avoid this heartache and incredible suffering, and make sure you look beyond the ‘puppy dog eyes’ and take your time with any decisions.”
Alongside this urgent warning, the Kennel Club has advice and practical resources – from videos to top tips – for would-be owners to help them Be Puppywise as part of its campaign: thekennelclub.org.uk/bepuppywise